Watch this (cage) space – new parakeet coming in November

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I was hoping after some time apart Toby and Kelly would end up back together in a much bigger Flight Cage. That isn’t really panning out. They are much safer living separately and I think we’ve finally accepted that Toby is way too territorial to have a roommate. But, where this leaves Kelly is fairly lonely and missing Toby’s company, even if it meant her feet were going to get bitten off! Enter a new parakeet to hopefully be a new roomie for Kelly and an overall good addition to the flock.

Of course as a person who struggles with delaying gratification I would love to go out and snap up a baby boy yesterday!  Unfortunately, I have to travel quite a bit for work in the next couple of months, so November is looking like the most responsible time to get a new budgie.

We really messed up when we got Kelly by not quarantining her in a separate room from Toby.  Not only did we take a huge risk of exposing Toby to disease, but we also took away from ourselves the opportunity to spend one-on-one time boding with Kelly. As a consequence, although she likes us, she doesn’t feel the same sort of connection that Toby does. At the time it seemed much more important that Toby have company immediately, but now we feel that a proper quarantine would have helped.

When we get the new parakeet in November we are going to quarantine in the room furthest away from Toby and Kelly’s cages. I am not 100% sure whether I’m going to keep him in the Small Vision Bird Cage or the Prevue Park Plaza Bird Cage, the usable space seems about the same to me, assuming the new kid isn’t a ground dweller!  That way we’ll have time to make sure he’s healthy, and also spend lots of time bonding and proving how awesome humans are. Side note: is it really bad that I have two parakeets but four cages?

I’m similarly unsure where we are going to get him from. I know that we want a boy, and I’m not opposed to getting a mature fellow who needs a new home. At this point I’m thinking we will explore our options and pick whoever “speaks” to us most!  We did that with Toby and it worked out really well. I’m also waffling back and forth on whether I want to get him from somewhere that he will come clipped. It didn’t work to our advantage on taming Kelly that she was clipped, but again, primarily because we squandered our chance to bond solo.

Anyhow there are some interesting days and shake-ups ahead so stay tuned!  Also, please keep your fingers crossed that this new parakeet will be able to bunk in with Kelly or Toby after quarantine, because I really don’t want to end up taking care of three separate cages!

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How we use millet for parakeets in my household

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In my attempts to be a well-informed parakeet owner, and also my general nosiness, I look at a lot of different cage set-ups. I love getting inspiration from other bird-owners, especially seeing new toys or the awesomely creative stuff that people DIY. One thing I notice a lot of that surprises me is the use of a Millet Spray Holder or generally the free-range offer of Millet in the cage. I think that if you go that route you’re losing your most powerful motivator and possibly setting yourself up for nutrition issues.

First a note on Millet Spray Holder; some of them may be unsafe. There is, in particular a plastic Millet Spray Holder that looks like a cage for millet, as well as a Stainless Steel Millet Holder that is a steel spiral. I have heard of several budgies getting their heads caught in these items, and some have not survived. Now, I fully believe that a determined parakeet could kill themselves with almost anything in their environment; they are delicate creatures that act like invincible tough guys! But, there’s enough anecdotal evidence for me that this optional item is best skipped.

Outside of safety, your parakeet simply does need free access to Millet. It is not particularly nutritious and could lead to unnecessary weight gain. I work in an office all day, and free feed Millet would be the equivalent of someone hanging a party size bag of Doritos in my cubicle and telling me to have at it. Not only would I eat my weight in Doritos every day, I would probably also make poor nutritiounal choices and eat Doritos almost exclusively, regardless of whether there was also a basket of Apples nearby.

Maybe most humans would make better choices than me! But, parakeets have about the same mono-vision when it comes to Millet that I have when it comes to Doritos. If you want your parakeet to eat a healthy seed, pellet, vegetable and fruit-based diet, having Millet readily available is not the best plan. The parakeet is not thinking about losing the weight for swimsuit season or making sure he avoids fatty liver disease, so you have to think abou tthese things for him.

Beyond being unnecessary for a balanced daily diet, free-feeding Millet also takes it out of your arsenal as one of the most powerful motivators for good budgie training. In my house Millet is only used during training or other instances in which we humans desire a specific parakeet result and are willing to “pay” for it with a treat.

As far as Toby and Kelly are aware, the only way to get Millet is from humans, by doing desirable things. So, initially during taming the desirable thing might be to simply sit on someone’s hand or shoulder. This helps the parakeet learn that good things have when you interact with people. Except not really just good things, but the best things and treat can only be guaranteed by becoming part of a flock with those funny-looking birds whose eyes are in the wrong place (ie: humans).

We’re not doing a ton of training lately, the parakeets have been molting so we have backed off until everyone is feeling great again. The only time they currently get Millet is once per day, they each get a little bit broken off the larger spray, and only after going into their cages peaceably at night at bed time. At this point it’s such a routine that Toby goes in eagerly as soon as I shut the curtain near their cage and immediately perches where I can put the Millet through the bars. Kelly is a bit of a daydreamer and usually continues to wander around until I tap on her sleeping perch to remind her of the time.

We used to wait until they got tired and sorted themselves out for bed, but sometimes, like tired little kids, they would loop back around to hyper and uncontrollable, so now I set the bedtime and they are happy to comply if it means an evening treat!

Particularly with flighted birds, a parakeet parent has very little control over budgie actions unless they can be motivated to good behavior. If we didn’t keep their love of Millet in our reserves, I am not sure how we could convince Toby and Kelly to do anything they didn’t want to do! As it stands, we have the ace in our sleeves at all times and training, as well as motivating daily tasks, becomes much easier.

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Vultures visit my street – and remind me why cages next to windows are a bad idea

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We had some excitement near our house recently, there was some nice fresh roadkill across the street and a wake of vultures showed up to have a feast and party.  Toby’s reaction provided me with a good reminder of why we don’t keep our bird cages next to windows!

Patrick first noticed the vultures on Saturday morning when one swooped low going over our house. First there was just one, but by the time they figured out how to land near the street, there were 6 vultures fighting over whatever poor animal had gotten hit by a car.

Of course as bird lovers we were fascinated! Particularly by how much like a flock of parakeets they were. Just like Toby and Kelly they were always on alert for danger, and they fought over food just like our budgies too. A few vultures were always sitting on top of a tree keeping lookout.

We kept moving from room to room trying to get the best vantage point, and my husband was snapping tons of pictures.

Since it was a Saturday morning Toby and Kelly were out and about doing there own thing, we hadn’t been paying much attention to them, and they really hadn’t paid us much mind either. Then while I was standing next to our big front window Toby came over to see what was going on, and the poor thing froze in terror as soon as she spotted the vultures.

Now mind you, these vultures were not 10-20 feet away, they were all the way across the street and down quite a bit, but she just absolutely went still as a statue frozen in place with her eyes wide wide open.

I tried soothing her with my voice and she didn’t budgie. I even tried getting her to step up by pushing my finger against her tummy and she didn’t move a muscle! I probably could have petted her wherever I wanted and in that moment staying still so the vultures didn’t see her would have remained top priority!  Of course that wouldn’t have been very kind, and instead I immediately closed the curtains and removed, in her mind, the threat of the vultures coming to get her.

As soon as the curtains were shut she was able to move again and went back to her home cage, shaking off the fright quickly.

It made me so glad that our bird cages aren’t next to that big window or any windows with a direct view of the outside world. Even though you might think it’s fun for your parakeets to watch the world go by, and it probably is 90% of the time, the other 10% is full of stuff going by that’s going to scare them. Like vultures, other predators, or even “silly” stuff like a hard wind blowing leaves around.

We humans all know that the flock is safe at home behind glass, but Toby’s reaction to those vultures really drove home for me that the parakeets don’t have that on board assumption of safety, so it’s important that we help them feel safe by using good judgement in cage placement.

 

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Parakeets and light timers – they are not just for vacations!

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Like you’d expect, we bought our set of Programmable Plug-in Digital Timers when we were getting set to go on vacation. But instead of removing them when we got back we left the timers as is, and find them to be an invaluable resource that makes our every day lives easier. Here’s how light timers have practical use every day.

  • We never forget to give Toby and Kelly the full spectrum lighting they need on a daily basis. Toby and Kelly have a AvianSun Deluxe Floor Pet Lamp (and the Avian Sun bulb that it needs to do any good). When we first got the set Patrick and I would consistently forget to turn them on, or would turn it on and leave it for hours more than they needed per day. With the lights plugged into a timer they get three hours of full spectrum lighting every day, and it’s set from 12 – 3pm, which is a time that they are usually at home in their cages and, if it’s a weekday, typically taking an afternoon snooze. Without the light timers they would never get that consistent dose of full spectrum lighting.
  • Bed time routine. Kelly is super easy to get into a bed time mode. Somehow she usually knows when it’s 6pm, goes home, and put herself to bed. Toby, on the other hand, would stay up until all hours if she was allowed to. Even after we get her into the cage at night, (usually resorting to target training and millet) she flaps around for a while and generally resists the fact that it’s not party time anymore. To help her settle down we try to provide as many cues as possible that bed time is imminent, and one of those cues is lighting. Before I start tying to put them to bed I close the curtains behind them, then Patrick and I get Toby settled in her cage and shut Kelly in hers. The next step is to turn down their ceiling lamp (on a Dimmer switch). This gives them fair warning that night time is coming, so they have a chance to eat a late dinner and get the last bit of their energy out. Finally the last lamp, which is on a timer, goes off at 7:30pm. At that point they have had a ton of warning that it’s bed time, but I also didn’t have to remember to turn off the last light and think about the time. If it was up to me and I was in the midst of making dinner, or messing around on facebook that light would probably be on way too late, and Toby would definitely take advantage!

Basically anything I can do to automate a process is awesome! If I didn’t already have it sorted I would buy another set of timers and try to put a radio on them or a the television so the birds would have company during the day.  As it is we have the Amazon Echo for their entertainment, and that’s probably a whole post all of it’s own!

The only negative I do want to note about this set of Digital Timers is that it covers up both outlets when plugged in, so you can’t use the other outlet for even a nightlight or to plug in your vacuum etc.  They can also be a bit confusing to set, but once you’ve got it taken care of they are very reliable and using light timers definitely takes a few routine tasks off my mental plate.

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What to expect when you bring home your new parakeet

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Selecting and bringing home your first parakeet is a very exciting time for your household. Whether you’ve meticulously planned and curated an awesome cage for him, or you’re winging it and buying everything at once, chances are this isn’t a spur of the moment decision. You’ve probably thought a lot about what it will be like to introduce a parakeet to your home. Once you’ve actually installed the parakeet in his cage, you may be struck by the fact that he seems like a completely different bird than he was in the store, and some of the new behavior can be quite alarming. Here’s what you can expect for the first few days of adjustment.

  • The new parakeet doesn’t move. Literally for hours or even a day or two you may not see your parakeet move at all. Toby stayed stock still for 8 hours when we first brought her home and Kelly did the same. The parakeet is okay, he is just checking out his new environment and he is scared. Being a prey animal, one of his responses to fear is to stay totally still so predators don’t detect his presence. Of course there aren’t any predators in your home, but he doesn’t know that yet! You can play soothing music to help him feel comfortable, and I recommend staying out of his way until he relaxes. You want him to observe your household and make the determination that it’s not so scary after all, and it’s harder for him to do that if you get close or put your hands in the cage and frighten him further. This applies even to parakeets that you would expect to be totally chill about the move, such as hand-fed babies that you may have even met before on several occasions. It is still a HUGE and scary change making a move.
  • The new parakeet doesn’t eat or drink. You may think that the budgie is not eating or drinking anything, even up to 3 or 4 days post introduction into your home. This is likely not the case, he will eat and drink when you are not around and he feels safer. Eating and drinking puts him in a position that’s very vulnerable to attack from predators, and since he’s not totally convinced you aren’t a threat, he will eat and drink when you’re gone. Check to see if there are seed hulls in the food bowl, that’s an indication he is eating while you’re not around. If you are truly concerned put in a spray of millet for a while to see if he will go for that. It may take longer for you to see your parakeet drinking versus eating. It was two solid weeks before I saw Toby drink, but of course she must have been doing it in secret all along. You can also monitor his poops to make sure they are made up of both urates and feces (white and green or brown), although some poop variation is normal due to all the changes and stress.

This is not the time to introduce vegetables, fruits or other new foods. the best bet is to provide whatever food your parakeet has been accustomed to eating; you’ll have tons of time down the road to change his diet.

  • The new parakeet doesn’t make a sound. As you might guess, this is also to avoid drawing attention to himself from predators. Play music or have the tv on at a reasonable volume and the background noise should help your parakeet feel more comfortable. He’s probably used to lots of noise being in with other parakeets so total quiet without other birds can be very jarring and scary. It may take days before he relaxes enough to start singing, yelling, screeching and making all the other delightful budgie noises!

Hopefully that helps explain why the boisterous little clown you picked out at the pet store turned into a quiet parakeet statue the moment you brought him home. It can be a terrible feeling seeing him so scared and out of sorts, but give it a few days and he’ll come around. Once your new parakeet has begun moving around and acting more like himself it’s time to begin the taming process, but before that happens I strongly recommend giving him time to settle in an figure out the he’s safe in your home.

new parakeet doesn't move

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Diarrhea in budgies: some causes of wet poop

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Parakeet poop is one of the easiest ways to keep tabs on your pet’s health and diarrhea in budgies can often be cause for alarm. A healthy parakeet poop is not very wet and has well-defined feces and urates. The feces portion is typically green or brown while the urates should be white. Anything that veers from this norm is concerning, but the wet, loose poops or diarrhea are frequently transient in nature and in many cases, can be explained by the following causes.

  • Fear based wet poops. This is typically seen in parakeets that are new to your home and feeling very anxious. When they are afraid they can have very loose poop that sometimes has no urates at all and is just a small amount of feces and urine.  We still see this with Kelly, she has a very nervous temperament and if we startle her coming into the house or wake her abruptly from a nap she will immediately display “fear poops”.  These should resolve either when the parakeet has gotten over being startled or whenever they feel comfortable. With a newly brought home parakeet this can last some time, make sure they are eating and drinking and don’t have other outward signs of illness such as fluffing up, tail bobbing etc.
  • Post-bath poops that are completely liquid.  When a budgie takes a bath they frequently ingest a lot more water than would be typical for them. This can result in waste that is completely water. This should be relatively short-lived. Side note – it always reminds me of the Baby Alive Doll that I used to have where you would feed her the bottle of water and the liquid would just run straight through her!
  • Eating fruits or vegetables. Fruits and vegetables have a very high water content compared to seeds. Eating a big helping of wet lettuce or watermelon would naturally cause loose poop or diarrhea for the time that it is being processed.
  • Molting. Not every budgie has loose poop when they are molting, but it is a relatively common side effect. In our house it’s intermittent for a few days while they are at the most wretched heights of pin feathers. As long as they are eating and drinking I try not to overwhelm myself with worry!
  • Competitive drinking. I can’t say that this is common among all budgies, but mine have an intense flock mentality. If one of them eats the other one has to as well, even when they are in separate cages. So, sometimes one of them goes to have a drink, and then the other one does, and they end up in this feedback loop where they just keep drinking because the other one is drinking.  This can be a very specific cause of short-term diarrhea.

The theme with all of these causes is probably readily apparent. You should be able to define the root cause relatively easily based on what your budgie has just been doing or eating. The diarrhea itself ought to be short lived, except in the case of fear, which can take a bit longer to resolve in a newly acquired budgie or molting, as that can be intermittent over a period of time. Trust your gut and keep an eye out for any other symptoms. There are many instances in which diarrhea warrants a call to your vet. Once you know your budgie it will be easy to tell what’s “normal” for them and what’s cause for immediate concern.

Please note – I am neither a vet nor a medical expert about parakeets. If you are concerned about your pet’s well-being please call your vet and make an appointment. This post should not substitute medical care for your pet and I am not making any specific recommendations of care. 

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Parakeets and food silos = less mess?

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When we first got Toby’s new cage I was dismayed by the included food bowls, which are plastic trough-like rectangles with a divider for food and water. We’ve always used Stainless Steel Bowls, which I think are very easy to keep clean and I like that they can help reduce slimy buildup in the water dish. I ordered a set of Stainless Steel Bowls with right attachments on the same day that I ordered the cage, but I didn’t realize they would take a few weeks in shipment. I guess delays are somewhat of a theme here lately!

I started off putting Toby’s steel bowls from her old cage on the bottom of the new cage, but she refuses to go down to the bottom and feed. Then I filled the troughs with food, but she could not for the life of her figure out how to access the trough.

Fortunately, a while back I bought a Food Silo on a whim and just never installed it. At the time of purchase I was thinking it might be a good back-up feeder if we were gone for a long day or on vacation. Even with someone coming in every day it couldn’t hurt to have a secondary, protected source of food.

I hastily installed the Food Silo in Toby’s cage so she would have somewhere to eat, and she took to it immediately with great gusto. Moreover, Kelly loved it too and would go hang out in Toby’s cage just to eat the same food that she had out of a different vessel! For my part, it was awesome to be able to fill the Food Silo from outside the cage, instead of opening an access door and risking escapees on busy workday mornings.

Seeing how much Kelly liked Toby’s silo I quickly ordered one for her so they could both experience the joy of the in-home Food Silo .

Here’s where things got messy. Once Toby was totally adjusted to the Food Silo she started entertaining herself by using her beak to shovel all the seed out of the silo tray. She was throwing out 3+ tablespoons of food per day. And she can’t forage through the discarded seed because we can’t take the grate out of her new cage without leaving inch wide gaps at the base. Although she won’t go to the bottom anyway so it’s a total wash.

Kelly is much more responsible with her silo, but Toby comes over when the cages are open and does the same thing in Kelly’s cage! So, they may truly end up being vacation or other exception only.

I have seen tons of reviews about how much mess the silo feeder saves parakeet owners, but that is definitely not the case for us. I had not taken into account how much mess I was saving by using relatively deep stainless steel bowls and only feeding two tablespoons per bowl per day. With that low volume of food it’s not enough for them to kick food out of their bowls, even if they want to sit in the bowl with their food. I’m glad that Toby finally adjusted to her troughs so I can get rid of her silo, although I suppose the experience was quite a lot of fun for her, food silos are too much mess for my household!

The face of a mess-maker!

 

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